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40 Years Ago Today: The Raid on Entebbe

Today is the fortieth anniversary of one of the most extraordinary special forces raids in military history. It was conducted by the Israeli Defense Forces to rescue civilian hostages held at an airport in Entebbe, Uganda.

On June 27, 1976, 4 Palestinian and German terrorists hijacked an Air France flight from Tel Aviv to Paris. They forced the pilots to fly to Libya, and then to Uganda, where they could rely upon the assistance of the dictator Idi Amin. There, the terrorists and Ugandan soldiers released some of the hostages, keeping 106 of them, most of whom were Jews or Israelis.

(Entebbe International Airport by Micha Sender)

After diplomatic efforts failed, the IDF launched a raid dubbed Operational Thunderbolt on the Entebbe airport where the hostages were held. This was conducted in C-130 Hercules and Boeing 707 aircraft flying 2,500 miles from Israel just above the ground and water to avoid radar detection.

On July 4, approximately 100 IDF soldiers landed unannounced at the Entebbe airport. They promptly drove a luxurious black Mercedes out of the doors of a C-130. Their plan was to trick the Ugandans into thinking that this mysterious force was being led by Idi Amin himself!

(Photo of the return to Israel by the Israeli Government Press Office)

It didn't work, so the commandos, led by Lt. Col. Yonathan Netanyahu (brother of the current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu) attacked the Ugandan soldiers and the terrorists. They moved so quickly and so decisively that they were able to rescue 102 of the 106 hotages. The commandoes then destroyed Ugandan fighter jets on the ground and rushed the hostages back to the planes. They took off, refueled in Kenya, and returned to a joyous Israel.

Sadly, some of the hostages were killed while still in Uganda. There was also a single fatality among the Israeli troops: their commander, Lt. Col. Netanyahu.

(Video Link)

But the raid on Entebbe was still seen as a great victory and an extraordinary demonstration of courage, planning, and military skill. The feat captured the popular imagination of the world, which led to the story being retold in several movies.

-via Debby Witt

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